Nurturing inside talent
Over 95 percent of the store and restaurant managers for York County-based Rutter's convenience-store chain started out as entry-level employees.
The challenge is finding employees with the potential leadership skills to be managers and helping them move to the next level, said Suzanne Cramer, director of human resources and recruitment for Manchester Township-based Rutter’s.
“Having that customer-service mentality is No. 1 in what we look for,” Cramer said.
It takes a special blend of people skills and attention to detail to become a manager, she continued. And Rutter’s tries to do all that it can to help those who show the aptitude and also an interest in management.
One is through what the company calls Rutter’s Academy, a series of courses it holds for rising employees on specific topics, such as how to manage a variety of people and how to interview prospective employees.
“We do everything we can to give them the skills they need to be successful,” Cramer said. “We give them the preparation, but when you become a manager, of course, there’s nothing like actually stepping in and doing it.”
Rutter’s Academy is less than a decade old, each course deals with a specific subject, and all classes are offered at Rutter’s headquarters, she said.
Employees are typically promoted to positions like shift leader and assistant manager, and can bid to become a store manager when an opening becomes available in the Rutter’s chain, Cramer contined. Anyone chosen to be a manager goes though training that usually lasts eight weeks, and they are given a mentor - a successful store manager in the chain - to give them guidance in their new supervisory role.
Cramer said Rutter’s also visits regional high schools to recruit and make students aware of the opportunities in its company.
She talked about Rutter’s efforts to promote from within during a visit to the company’s headquarters by a former hardware-store manager – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. He was at Rutter’s in May as part of his “Jobs That Pay” tour, a series of visits by Wolf and his cabinet officials to determine what the state can do to boost jobs and the economy statewide.
“It all goes back to training and mentoring, coaching the employees along the way. We rely heavily on training. We think that’s the basis of where everything starts,” said the company’s vice president of operations, Jere Matthews. Rutter’s encourages managers to mentor employees to help them grow into possible leadership roles, he added.
Rutter’s Holdings Inc. is a family-managed group of companies that includes a dairy and beverage company and a real estate company along with its growing convenience-store chain, which has 70 locations. It reported $600 million in revenue in both 2016 and 2015.
It has nearly 2,000 employees: 400 full-time and 1,160 part-time employees in its stores, and 420 corporate and dairy employees, Rutter’s officials said.
It wants to add several stores a year and also is planning to expand to other states, its President and CEO Scott Hartman told Wolf.
It wants to recruit from within when possible, Hartman added.
Hartman himself is part of a third-generation family management team, and started working in his family’s convenience-store business at age 12. He has led Rutter’s since 2000, according to Business Journal files.